City Winery Instills Seder with New Meaning

City Winery Instills Seder with New Meaning

It’s easy to understand why City Winery's 2nd Downtown Seder will differ than all other seders. If only about the four cups of wine ritual.

The Downtown Seder combines tradition and artistic interpretation.
The Downtown Seder combines tradition and artistic interpretation.

Ma Nishtana… Why is this night different from all other nights? It’s easy to understand why the City Winery Atlanta’s 2nd Downtown Seder at 7 p.m. April 6 is different than all other seders. If only about the four cups of wine ritual.

The non-traditional nature of the readings and songs led by stars are also a good clue. Performers include Speech, the lead singer of hip-hop artists Arrested Development; Ricky McKinnie of the Blind Boys of Alabama Grammy-award winning gospel group; and Israeli singer-songwriter David Broza.

A video of Congressman Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asking the Four Questions will be shown for the first time during the Atlanta seder. It begins a five-city seder tour at City Winery’s other locations: Washington D.C., New York, Boston and Chicago. Nadler will talk about political issues, including the southern border wall debate, citing the translation of the Liberty Bell inscription, which is based on the Old Testament.

Past seder participants have included Lou Reed, Dr. Ruth, Judy Gold and others.

Michael Dorf began the Downtown Seder 19 years ago at City Winery in New York.

“Every year is different and yet every year is taking the classic haggadah and the seder order and the retelling of the story and doing it in a little different way,” said City Winery CEO and founder Michael Dorf.  He began the Downtown Seder tradition 19 years ago at the Knitting Factory in New York.

City Winery at Ponce City Market is known for its concerts, private events, restaurant, bar and a fully functioning urban winery.

Two years ago, Atlanta’s Downtown Seder was held in a rented room of Ponce City Market, but this year it will be at City Winery, with long, community tables set up with a vegetarian meal (kosher available upon request) prepared by Executive Chef Mario Manzini, and abundant glasses of the winery’s primary beverage.

City Winery’s Downtown Seder features traditional foods prepared by its executive chef.

The two-hour seder incorporates community leaders, activists, artists, politicians and comedians of diverse faiths and experiences to share the “wisdom and underlying message of hope in the classic story of Jews being led out of slavery,” City Winery reported. Remaining relevant today are the seder themes: liberation, struggles, bigotry, racial injustice, and tyrants harboring hatred.

The program tends to be more interpretive than most traditional seders, Dorf said. The Downtown Seder is told in a language that resonates with most participants. “My audience understands the language of the arts, music, comedy, poetry. They think intellectually and are socially active.”

With the shooting last year at the Pittsburgh synagogue and more recently at New Zealand mosques, “current issues tie precisely with the messages of Passover,” he said. Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are subjects “that should be talked about.”

The seder combines serious messages that connect with the audience, perhaps with a gospel song sung poignantly by a performer or told in a lighthearted way by a comedian, Dorf said. Certainly not your run-of-the-mill family seder.

Tickets are $70, $110 and $145 plus applicable fees, with a glatt kosher option available for an additional $25 per person. City Winery is located at 650 North Ave., Suite 201 in Ponce City Market. For more information, call 404-946-3791 or visit

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